Saturday, 2 May 2015

Chance Woods: Plotinus and Origen Once More: The Case of a Cambridge Platonist

Recent scholarship, including the studies of Mark Edwards, Panayiotis Tzamalikos, and Dylan Burns, has seriously qualified the intellectual relationship between Plotinus and Origen.  Whereas Origen was once comfortably termed a “Platonist,” such an epithet has become increasingly difficult to ascribe to the Alexandrian theologian in light of his idiosyncratic reworking of ideas pertaining to ontology, eschatology, and hermeneutics.  Still, the conceptualization of Plotinus and Origen as somehow occupying the same intellectual terrain is not without historical precedent.  Indeed, this paper argues that we would do well to revisit an early stage of early modern theological inquiry to understand fully how and why Plotinus and Origen have often been uniquely compared.  Specifically, this paper addresses the so-called Cambridge Platonist Henry More (1614-1687), whose theology was both overtly indebted to Plotinus and characterized by contemporaries as suffering from the undue influence of “Origenism.”  In returning to some important points first adumbrated by D.W. Dockrill in the pages of Studia Patristica, this paper develops a sustained consideration of More’s theology and maintains that a careful consideration of More’s speculative enterprise stands to provide measureable insight into the historical comparison of Plotinus and Origen in the patristic scholarship of the last three centuries.

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